Mantras and Visualizations: Meditations that Sting Like A Bee

“Float like a butterfly. Sting like a bee.”

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muhammad ali.jpg

This was Muhammad Ali’s mantra. Perhaps yoga and mindfulness isn’t often associated with Muhammad Ali, yoga's first principle of non-harming and all that, but he was someone who was particularly adroit in his use of the yogic principle of mantra and visualization. His iconic mantra has become synonymous with a champion. What is the power of mantra and visualization and how can they be used to mold reality like they did for Muhammad Ali, and how can we use these tools to achieve our dreams?




Writing the Script on Reality

Although his mantra practically became his sonic name tag, it wasn’t just a pithy phrase he liked to throw around because it was catchy; it wasn’t his slogan or his attempt at branding himself. Maybe few understood that Ali’s mantra was his access point into his deep inner-source that believed he would be the boxing heavyweight champion of the world. Saying it over and over again was his craft, the practice of helping the logical part of his mind both believe and expect this belief to become reality.

In addition to using his mantra, Muhammad Ali visualized over and over his fight with Sonny Liston where he would win the heavyweight championship. He saw himself win the title thousands of times in his head before ever stepping into the ring. By the time he stepped into the ring, all that was left to do was the final step, the physical practice of what he already knew was true. And Muhammad Ali isn't alone. It was like he theatre of life—he knew the script and on opening night he simply needed to go on stage and perform the play.

It reminds me of a story in the Hindu scripture, The Bhagavad Gita, where the God-turned-mortal Krishna is instructing the warrior prince Arjuna about his duty to fight in an epic battle. At Arjuna’s reluctance, Krishna pulls him aside and informs him that truth and time is not so linear and that the battle has already been fought and won. Knowing this, Krishna told Arujuna that the important thing is that he must go out there and fulfill his dharma, his destiny. Similar to what Ali told himself through visualization and mantra, Krishna told Arjuna to tap into the source of belief of what was already true.

Thought Precedes Form

Many psychologists and neuroscientists will affirm that despite our trust in it, our mind isn’t necessarily the best preceptor of reality; it’s readily subject to prejudice, interpretations, and misapprehension. In yoga philosophy the name for this misapprehension is Avidya, the opposite of clear seeing. Like modern brain science suggests, two people might see the same facts and both have wildly different beliefs about translating those facts. They might even debate what is real. Thus our mind is subject to our own personal beliefs and prejudices. Our mind creates a "reality" from a dizzying array of options suggested by our perceptions, interpretations, and desires. This subjectivity tugs at the very fabric the notion of reality.

Yoga suggests that since our beliefs are so powerful in contributing to our reality, we can use things like mantras and visualization to help us create our reality, perhaps like Muhammad Ali and Arjuna, a reality that somehow in our hearts what we know is already true. We have a bigger part to play in creating our reality than we think. Mantra and visualizations can help.

Beliefs change all the time. One minute you believe in the Tooth Fairy and the next you don’t. In Vedanta, a school of yogic philosophy, the sheath or layer of our being that negotiates beliefs, both conscious and subconscious, is called the Vignana Mayakosha. Yeah, it’s a crazy name this part of our being is perhaps more powerful than we sometimes give it credit.

Dr. Bruce Lipton, an internationally recognized biologist and author who works to bridge science and spirit, says that 95% of our decision making comes from our subconscious. If we can learn to source and even manipulate our subconscious, there's no telling what power we might have over our own world. Visualizations and mantra are two very effective and powerful ways of shaping our world. Muhammad Ali powerfully demonstrated his ability mold his reality of being the heavyweight champion of the world using mantra and visualization.

The Power of Words

Words are powerful. Religious texts like The Bible even says that “In the beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was God.” In the Hindu scripture, The Yoga Sutras, the principle of Satya or truth is the second highest principle behind non-harming because of the power of words. For longer than recorded history, magic, mythic, and religious traditions have regarded certain words, whether vocalized or thought, as both sacred and powerful. I heard one of my yoga teachers, Judeth Lasater, say, “What is worrying but praying for what you don’t want.” Thus is the power of thoughts and words.

So put words to the test. I invite you to choose those words that, like Muhammad Ali, like Arjuna, will manifest your sacred destiny. And I invite you to find a way of reciting them to manifest their power in your life. Maybe you know already your mantra, what words you need to evoke for you to live into your true destiny. Perhaps words like: Power, Clarity, Forgiveness, Strength, etc. Maybe you need to discover what your mantra is.

I invite you to do a meditation in order to distill your clarity on which words are right for you. This meditation doesn’t have to come by spending months in the desert in deep contemplation. Rather, maybe 10 minutes concentrating on clearly answering a few questions for yourself. You’ll know it when it comes. Maybe it will take a few days of meditating for a few minutes each day.

Here’s the mantra-finding process: First, ask yourself what has been reoccurring in your life recently as a theme that you need to pay attention to. Another way to answer this question is to think about what ways the Universe is asking you to grow right now—what challenges are presenting themselves to you now, asking you to grow? Next, don’t allow your thinking mind to take over, here, but rather let the answer to this next question be instinct, the first thing that comes to mind: What does your heart know is your purpose for this world? Distill the answer to these questions down to a phrase or maybe even one word (don’t worry, you can change it if you need to, you don’t have to marry that word for life) but allow yourself to use that word or phrase as your powerful catalyst forward to what you already believe about yourself.

mala beads.jpg

Then, if you’re inclined, grab a mala (you can get these at any crystal and incese, dragon and rainbows shop). They are beaded necklaces with 108 beads on them. The Mala’s will usually have a tassel on them representing the beginning and the end. Hold the mala on the first bead between your right thumb and middle finger, just beyond the tassel. In your mind or aloud, repeat your word or phrase then move to the next bead. Do this over and over again until you come to the end of the mala. If it’s short and you’d like a longer meditation, turn the mala around and repeat the mantra going the other way on the mala until you come back to the tassel. After your meditation watch to see how you see the world differently and how you live into the beliefs that you bring to your mind through mantra.

In addition to discovering your mantra, create a visualization where you see yourself perform what you'd like to arrive for yourself over and over. Remember to use all of your senses and think about it happening in the moment, instead of dreaming for a future. The part of our brain and the part of our consciousness that we are accessing only understand now. Spend a few minutes in visualization to see yourself succeed and just like Muhammad Ali, become the champion of your world.

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guided meditation

Meditations on Happiness

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Meditations on Happiness

We all just want to be happy. We all search to be happier. We are all scouring for clues to solve that mystery as to why we aren’t fully satisfied in life? So we turn to things like yoga and meditation to help solve the happiness mystery. Surely yoga and meditation will help us to be happy, right? Yes they will but maybe not how we think they will. Much of the immediate “happiness” we get from yoga and meditation is fleeting and finite: a nice yoga butt, the ninja-like ability to do a handstand, 5 minutes not worrying about your finances while sitting in meditation. And as soon as we’ve finished class, we often find ourselves disappointed to be in the exact same place we were before class.

The problem occurs when we use yoga and meditation as self-improvement instruments. We say to ourselves, “If I could just improve my flexibility, forget my aching heart, and calm my busy mind, then I’d be happy.” But what if yoga and meditation aren’t for self-improvement at all? What if they are merely tools that help bring us to Awareness? And that’s it. These practices aren’t for self-improvement because the Self doesn’t need to be fixed.

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But beyond that, in a very practical way this Awareness also helps us to find happiness by clarifying to our conscious mind both what we really want in life as well as helping us recognize it when we’ve received it. In truth, Yoga and meditation simply help us to practice Awareness which in turn reveals the true mystery of happiness: that happiness is presence.


Secret No. 1: Don’t Wait for Happiness, You’re Already Perfect


First, and this is one of life’s biggest lessons, yoga and meditation make you happy by giving you the Awareness that everything simply exists and is perfect in that existence. Including you. You’re already perfect. This Awareness also reveals that happiness just exists, the same way everything else does.

One of the secrets to happiness is to realize that we can’t wait for the events in our lives to align perfectly for us to be happy. You gotta stop waiting for the world to make you happy cuz the world just doesn’t care. You gotta start making the decision to be happy despite the events and circumstances in your life because there will always be something other than yourself to blame for the fact that you’re unhappy. You’re in charge of your emotions. Nobody else is responsible for that job, not your partner or spouse, your kids, your job, your teachers, God—nobody but you.

The stone-cold truth is that the events in our lives are neither good nor bad. They just are. It’s the meaning we assign to those events that triggers the emotions we associate as good or bad. And guess who gets to choose the meaning of each event that happens. You do.

Awareness shows you that this moment is all there is. Stop waiting for happiness. There’s never a more perfect time to be happy as the eternal now. Awareness shows you that you gotta stop looking for happiness outside of yourself. You’ll never find it. It doesn’t exist. If you can’t find happiness inside, you’ll sure as shit never find it outside. That’s just Truth with a capital “T.”

One of the oldest vedic mantras, the Gayatri Mantra, thousands of years old, says that if I truly understood the fact that everything comes from Source, I’d see that I’m no different than the happiness I seek, I’d see that happiness is my essence. (Click below to listen to me chanting this mantra.)

I know what you’re thinking, “That’s shit! life’s hard.”

Sure, life’s hard. Yet through Awareness there’s a happiness that can’t be touched by life’s difficulty. Life is beautiful even in our hardest moments because our struggles represent our growth-evolution of learning to see ourselves as the perfect beings we already are. Our life’s struggles are just like those of a new butterfly struggling to break out of its chrysalis, to unfold into its own magnificence. A butterfly won’t survive without those struggles. And like the joy of the butterfly bouncing triumphantly on the wind, one day we too will celebrate every stitch of pain that birthed our unknown wings.

The late, great Leonard Cohen said it perfectly in his lyrics to the song Anthem:

Ring the bells that still can ring,

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything,

And that’s how the light gets in.



Even the rhyme is broken yet these are perhaps some of the most succinct and poignant lyrics ever to remind us that we aren’t perfect despite our brokenness, but because of it.

In order to see our perfection through our brokenness, we must learn to be present when painful emotions arise, enough to feel them fully but without letting them define us. The practice is to realize that while we may experience emotions, what we are is fundamentally larger than emotions. And as much as you can be present with emotions, no matter which one, that presence actually serves to reveal the perfect, luminous thing inside of you which is larger than emotions, call it Awareness, Source, God, Spirit, your True Self— whatever. What you are is Awareness experiencing itself as an emotion, like an otherwise unknown being trying on a costume to understand itself. It’s by being present to your emotions through Awareness that reveals the happiness inside of you, a happiness that can’t be touched by events and circumstances

Being present with your emotions is opposite of pretending that emotions don’t exist, especially difficult emotions.They do exist. They just don’t define you. Plus, remember that every emotion is in flux, here one moment and gone the next. Just like everything else in this loving Universe, it’s part of an orbit. Emotions are part of the game of life, a part of the dream. Awareness is the part of you that’s having the dream, the part that never changes, despite any emotion that may visit. In fact, it’s things like emotions that help to reveal yourself as Awareness.

Yoga and meditation cultivate the Awareness that what we are is a spiritual being having a physical experience. We are coming to know ourselves as the Divine, a force that is fundamentally reduced to love. Divine love is in you and in everybody and everything else in the Universe. When you know that, when you feel that, come what may, nothing can touch you. You’ll even be able to experience things like heartache with love.

So while on the surface, yoga and meditation don’t make you happy, they do cultivate an Awareness which reveals some key secrets to happiness. Namely, it reveals that you are a perfect, Divine being, that you can only find happiness within, and that you’re in charge of defining the events that happen in your life. It’s the challenges in our life that help to illuminate our perfection. Awareness teaches you that what you are fundamentally is happiness (Gayatri Mantra) and that you can’t wait for life to align perfectly to “find” happiness. It also teaches us to be present to our emotions because they don’t define you but are valuable tools that help to illuminate the happiness that exists despite the events and subsequent emotions of life.



Secret No. 2: The Cosmic Taco—Place Your Order, Please.

Another way that Awareness leads us toward happiness is by giving us the clarity to know what we really want in life. Despite the fact that we are perfect just as we are, we are nonetheless hardwired to grow and to evolve. This means that it takes Awareness to realize when we’ve outgrown our current situation. Sometimes our growth is cued by a feeling of being disconnected or unsatisfied with what is. Often this is the Universe saying that we’ve outgrown our current condition and that we need to find something else, like a hermit crab whose outgrown their shell.

The dark side of being hardwired for growth means that for some of us, we are always looking for greener grasses. But with presence, we can hold the paradox that this moment is both perfect as it is and that the Universe is calling on us to grow and move away from it. With presence we also recognize that our current situation is the best and only platform for us to step into our next stage of evolution. In fact, failure to do so—both failure to acknowledge our current situation as well as our failure to grow into what’s calling us forward—ironically traps us in what fundamentally isn’t working for us, just like a prison cell. Failure to evolve from a place of grounded presence traps us in a vicious cycle of reliving our old lessons until we are ready to move on. It’ll be just like Groundhog Day but instead of Bill Murray, it’ll be us living out that drama.

Many of us mistake our itch for growth as unhappiness when it’s really just our own call for evolution knocking on our door. It’s like looking down and seeing that the pants that used to fit you just fine are now riding up around your shins. What’s worse is that most of us might feel the need to grow and look for something new but don’t even know what we are looking for. Here’s a perfect example…

Several years ago I needed to find an apartment. I had exactly one week to find a place and move out and I was really feeling the pressure. Despite the fact that I had looked at literally dozens of apartments I felt like my search was going nowhere. I realized that I was looking at apartments and not really knowing what I was looking for. After examining yet one more apartment that left me massively underwhelmed, I realized that I didn’t even know what I was looking for. So, I went home and wrote down precisely what I wanted, about 15 different criteria, everything down to which neighborhood, the price, what kind of amenities—even the architectural style and age of the building. The very next day, I looked at yet another apartment. It didn’t meet the majority of those criteria. That’s because it met ALL of them— Every. Damn. Detail. I went on to spend some very happy years in that apartment.

Many different yoga and meditation traditions say that consciousness precedes form. It was like the Universe was just waiting for me to put in my order, like the invisible person that lives in the speaker box at the drive-thru, happy to serve me as soon as I made up my mind and tell it what I want.

I believe that the Universe is constantly waiting to give us what we want and like any good teacher, if we’re not asking, it’s not giving. Asking for what we want, visualizing it in a way that is current, possible, and positive, is a way that alerts the Universe that we are ready to receive what the Universe has been waiting to offer all along.

I told this story to a good friend and she told me, “You could probably ask the Cosmos for a taco and open up your hand and, boom, a taco would drop into your hands.” Thus a new term was born, “The Cosmic Taco.” I now use this term to refer to telling the Universe exactly what you want. “Um, yeah, could I please get a beautiful place to live, in France, along with my adorable family, a great job that I love that makes me feel loved, fulfilled, and useful? Oh, and could I get that with avocado and hot sauce? Thanks!”

What do you want on your Cosmic Taco? Make a list. Be specific.

Yoga Nidra

Telling the Universe what you want on your Cosmic Taco is useful for so many reasons, but specifically it clarifies to both your thinking mind and simultaneously to Universal Consciousness what you want so it can begin to dish it out. Like I said, most of us are walking around looking for something other than what we have and we don’t even know what it is we are looking for.

For many of us it’s a matter of what we feel we are worthy of. Remember, you’re the Divine having a human experience. It’s your birthright to have EVERYTHING. Don’t be afraid to ask for exactly what you want. You more than deserve it.

As you get clear with what you want, I promise that you’ll start to notice those thing coming to you from many directions. Don’t be surprised if you start to be bombarded by clues, synergies, and opportunities. Even the songs on the radio will start to get on board to somehow sing to what’s coming through for you. Recently I had a powerful experience where I was feeling overwhelmed by the simple perfection of the lyric, “All you need is love,” and a fucking beetle came and literally landed on my hand. “Yeah, Universe, I know it’s the Beatles.”

Has something like that ever happened to you? Probably. Why is that? It think it’s because the Universe operates in an order and once you get onboard with a trajectory, you’ll see how that ordered thing begins to play out. Chances are, these clues for what you wanted were passing you all along but since you had such a dizzying array of options in front of you, each one just as viable as the next, you were simply blinded by all the myriad options to notice them.

One of the things I’ve learned from Yoga Nidra, the fascinating and transformative type of meditation I’m so passionate about, is that the past and future are abstract concepts and the eternal part of us, the one that’s connected to Universal Consciousness, only exists in the now and exists in a universe of YES—always has, always will—so you have to talk to it in ways that is current and positive. It helps to put yourself on your pathway of growth by creating mantras, aphorisms, or prayers that make a positive statement of truth that will help you grow in that direction, like a pole lashed to a tree to help it grow straight. Don’t speak to your perceived lack or the incompleteness, speak to your inevitable wholeness, to what is real and true in the moment and what is leading you to the next thing layer of wholeness. I heard Judith Lasater once say, “What is worrying but praying for what you don’t want.” Pray for what you do want.

Here’s are two examples for a positive mantras that speak to the power of the moment:

“I’m currently on my road to _____________,”

“Inside, I already have everything I need for____________.”

Both of these examples are realistic, positive, and happening in the moment. Both reflect what my therapist has been telling me for years, “Reach for the stars and keep your feet planted on the ground.” Both are mantras that communicate to the Universe what we want and positions it to help us manifest those things.

Awareness therefore brings us happiness by helping us realize that despite being perfect beings living in a perfect moment, we are nonetheless hardwired to grow. It helps us to know when we need to move on, it gives us the clarity to know what we are looking for, and it does so grounded in the positive reality of what is.

David Whyte is a rockstar in my world. Check out what he says about growing into what we feel we are worthy of in this world.

The True Love

The True Love

There is a faith in loving fiercely
the one who is rightfully yours,
especially if you have
waited years and especially
if part of you never believed
you could deserve this
loved and beckoning hand
held out to you this way.

I am thinking of faith now
and the testaments of loneliness
and what we feel we are
worthy of in this world.

Years ago in the Hebrides,
I remember an old man
who walked every morning
on the grey stones
to the shore of baying seals,
who would press his hat
to his chest in the blustering
salt wind and say his prayer
to the turbulent Jesus
hidden in the water,

and I think of the story
of the storm and everyone
waking and seeing
the distant
yet familiar figure
far across the water
calling to them

and how we are all
preparing for that
abrupt waking,
and that calling,
and that moment
we have to say yes,
except it will
not come so grandly
so Biblically
but more subtly
and intimately in the face
of the one you know
you have to love

so that when
we finally step out of the boat
toward them, we find
everything holds
us, and everything confirms
our courage, and if you wanted
to drown you could,
but you don't
because finally
after all this struggle
and all these years
you simply don't want to
any more
you've simply had enough
of drowning
and you want to live and you
want to love and you will
walk across any territory
and any darkness
however fluid and however
dangerous to take the
one hand you know
belongs in yours.

~David Whyte


I love this because your True Love could be your partner/spouse, kids, job, beliefs, or anything.

What is YOUR True Love?

Secret No. 3: What We Need is Here

Not only must we be clear with what we want, but we gotta learn to recognize it when it comes. I think that between knowing what you want and recognizing it when it’s come, the later is the more difficult and will lead us more quickly to enduring happiness. We cant get so driven to see over the next horizon that we fail to recognize that what we wanted all along is actually lying at our feet. It’s the story of the hero’s journey.

Yoga Nidra

Presence opens our eyes to see what is here and what is real. It teaches us that now is a perfect moment, despite whatever’s happening, and that there will never be a better moment than now. Presence shows you that what you want is here. What you want is not the thing over the next horizon, what you want is being here. Being here is being home. Check out what

I love poets because they have to be so present in order to articulate the moment that’s happening right before them. Check out this showstopper by Wendell Berry:

What We Need Is Here

Geese appear high over us,

pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,

as in love or sleep, holds

them to their way, clear

in the ancient faith: what we need

is here. And we pray, not

for new earth or heaven, but to be

quiet in heart, and in eye,

clear. What we need is here.


~Wendell Berry

Yoga Nidra


I invented a magic mantra for happiness that helps me to see that what I need is here. It helps me to realize that this moment is as perfect as any other can be. That mantra is, “This is EXACTLY what I want to be doing in this moment.” I repeat this phrase even and especially if it feels like what I’m doing in this moment is pretty mundane or average because each time I do, it opens my eyes to the perfection of the moment. The perfect moment is defined by what’s happening but rather how I’m choosing to pay attention. Repeating this mantra instantly locks me into presence and takes me out of perpetual search mode. It helps me to lift my head, open my eyes and all the rest of my senses. As I’m writing this, a nice glass of Bordeaux next to me—fruity and bold—and some dark chocolate with sea salt, I feel myself swinging in the flow of this writing, the keys popping rhythmically under my fingers, and I acknowledge that, THIS is EXACTLY what I want to be doing IN. THIS. MOMENT. This is what I want. I can’t tell you how immensely satisfying it is to acknowledge that. This phrase helps to realize that I’m not waiting for the perfect moment, I’m watching it unfold before me.

And as I clarify what I want with presence, I realize that if I’m on my road to higher growth and I’m actively doing what it takes to move me along my path, then this is the only place I can be and therefore exactly where I want to be. So, yeah here is where I need to be and is the essential ground leading me to my next step forward on my path for growth and discovery. This is the harder lesson.

The last poem I want to share, a poem that has become a beloved friend to me, one which express this vital truth of presence, written by one of my heros—the woman, the wonder, the legend, drum roll please — Mary Oliver!

Mindful


Everyday

I see or hear

something

that more or less

kills me

with delight,

that leaves me

like a needle

in the haystack

Yoga Nidra

of light.

It was what I was born for —

to look, to listen,

to lose myself

inside this soft world —

to instruct myself

over and over

in joy,

and acclamation.

Nor am I talking

about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,

the very extravagant —

but of the ordinary,

the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.

Oh, good scholar,

I say to myself,

how can you help

but grow wise

with such teachings

as these —

the untrimmable light

of the world,

the ocean’s shine,

the prayers that are made

out of grass?

~Mary Oliver


I love this poem because it points to presence as the key to happiness, to satisfaction. And that without presence, we will never realize it when what we are searching for has arrived at our feet.

It’s my prayer that you find yourself in the Awareness that you are perfect just the way you are. May you have astounding clarity about what you want in life. And may you find yourself reading this and repeating the magic mantra for happiness, “This is exactly what I want to be doing in this moment.”

Thank you for sharing this moment with me.

Going deeper:

  • Remember that you’re perfect the way you are

  • Put in your order for your cosmic taco, make a detailed list of what you want your life to be

  • Regularly practice the magic mantra for happiness, “This is exactly what I want to be doing in this moment,” no matter what you’re doing in that moment.

Please share this with someone. Comment below about what you feel are YOUR secrets to happiness.


Guided Meditations for Sleep

Yoga Nidra: Yoga for Anxiety

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Online Yoga Nidra Meditation

Yoga Nidra is a relaxing form of guided meditation that helps you feel amazing. Better than amazing, Yoga Nidra helps you feel like your True Self, the qualities of which can only be described as invincible, expansive, and limitless-calm. Yoga Nidra helps us to see correctly again, in part by using things like emotions, even anxiety, as catalysts to experience our True Selves. We’re hardwired to feel this way all the time, except somehow we all allow things like thoughts, sensations, and emotions to cloud our vision of our True Self. For anyone who is interested in learning to become a certified Yoga Nidra teacher, please read to the end.

To catch the mind and keep it still,

Is no small problem for my porous will;

As many times as I shut it down,
Unceasing thoughts on me rebound

In youth I tried through alcohol,
To ease my stress and cool my gall;
In later years I turned to grass
The effects were good – but did not last.

At last with fading hopes I turned,
To Eastern paths, and my soul yearned
To scale the mystic heights of bliss.
Alas, no easy method this.

And now with age and turmoil weary,
All that’s left me is this query;
Will heart break or mind implode,
Before my vrittis do nirode.
— Swami Shankarananda

Yoga is defined in the Yoga Sutras as the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind, or to come into complete stillness and unperturbed by disruptions of thoughts, sensations, and emotions. Nidra is a state of mind. It’s that interesting liminal, hypnagogic state between waking and dreaming consciousness. Yoga Nidra, therefore is the practice of coming into the Awareness of our True Self through achieving this Nidra state in deep relaxation.

What is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga Nidra is a deep form of self-discovery, like meditation, where you experience your utmost nature of being. It's a very relaxing way of attuning your awareness to all things. Indeed it is the practice of experiencing yourself as Awareness itself.

Yoga Nidra does this by training us to relax and practice deep awareness. In fact, it helps us actually experience ourselves as Awareness itself. According to Yoga Nidra philosophy, our True Nature is Awareness. We feel into our True Nature by learning to relax and simply observe whatever presents itself to us at the moment, be that a thought, a sound, or an emotion or anything else. When you learn to merely observe something rather than react to it, you gain a universal perspective about it and it doesn’t have the power to control you because you’re not identified as it. This is particularly useful for emotions.


Yoga Nidra For Anxiety

Modern psychology helps us to understand how this works, particularly vis-à-vis our emotions. In the late 1950's, Joseph Wolpe, a leading behavior therapist at Stanford University, added to Pavlov's previous ground-breaking work on conditioning by helping those with anxiety using counter-conditioning. Wolpe demonstrated that the symptoms of anxiety were greatly reduced or eradicated when things that would otherwise stress people were presented systematically, bit by bit and paired with a relaxation response.* He showed that anxiety and relaxation cannot be present simultaneously. Therefore, if you can achieve deep relaxation and practice Awareness, then slowly and gradually present to your Awareness what triggers your emotions, you you experience yourself and identify as Awareness that is momentarily experiencing emotion, not emotion itself.

Ego vs. True Self

In our quest to understand ourselves, we tend to identify with anything that seems real. To our rational consciousness, what we can feel, see, smell, etc. seems real. However, all these things are inevitably locked in the realm of the changeable, the Ego. A misapprehension of what I think I am, a definition I learned from Eckhart Tolle in his book A New Earth


Anything you identify with tends to perpetuate. After all, we are hardwired to stay alive and if in someway we misunderstand our being as an emotion, even though it may not be our favorite emotion, we keep wrapping it around ourselves metaphorically, subconsciously afraid to let it go for fear that we will no longer exist without it.

But Yoga Nidra helps you experience and identify as Awareness that is momentarily experiencing emotion, not emotion itself. Then when emotion arises, it doesn’t have the power to overtake you. You see it as just one of the other things in the Universe that has an orbit.

It’s just like everything else in this Universe, making a drive-by along its own orbit.

I invite you to experience your own True Being with Yoga Nidra. I created a free learning module that uses Yoga Nidra to help you with stress. I loved putting it together and I hope it helps if you are working with anxiety.

Online Yoga Nidra Teacher Training

If you are interested in learning how to lead yourself and others through this transformational practice, please consider registering for my Online Yoga Nidra Teacher Training program. By the end of this training you’ll be prepared to teach Yoga Nidra to help countless students discover their True Selves and see beyond momentary emotions like stress and anxiety.

If you know someone who is working with stress or anxiety or who is interested in Yoga Nidra, please forward this. Thank you!


* Wolpe, J. (1958). Psychotherapy by reciprocal inhibition. Stanford. Stanford University Press.

Guided meditation for relaxation

Yoga Nidra Meditation: Does Your Inner 3-Year-Old Need to Go Nighty Night?

Who else can relate to the this . . .

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My 3-year-old has two settings— turbo and asleep.

One evening last summer, he was spraying the driveway with the hose. When we told him that he had to stop spraying because it was his bedtime, he became absolutely undone with emotion. He erupted into screams of anger, morphed into an inconsolable sadness, then began desperate pleading, which then cycled back to anger, more sadness, (this time accompanied with a slumped-over super-sad walk) and more pleading . . . This went on for several minutes making a performance that could have earned him a Tony Award.

I remember standing there unphased, merely watching this drama play out. As the adult with a grander perspective, not only did I not have to get pulled into his emotion, but my heart opened up to him. I could see this situation for what it was: he’s a 3-year-old ball of raw emotion. I understood that because it was his bedtime, he was very tired and crankiness gets amplified when you’re tired. I also had the perspective that his whole world at that moment was spraying the driveway and now his world had ended because of something as arbitrary as bedtime. But thanks to my adult perspective, I could simply observe his tantrum without having an opinion about it.

Minutes later, my son was sleeping peacefully in his bed.

Photo https://o-meditation.com/2017/02/24/awareness-j-krishnamurti/

Photo https://o-meditation.com/2017/02/24/awareness-j-krishnamurti/

Krishnamurti, one of the preeminent yoga minds of the last century, said it best when he proffered that “The highest form of intelligence is observation without assessment.” He’s saying that our highest Self is one that can merely witness something and not react to it.

“Yeah, that’s great when you’re observing your kid throw a fit, but how to you learn to not have an opinion about your own serious adult emotions like stress, worry, or anxiety?” The answer is perhaps easier than you think: observation through relaxation.

I know what you’re thinking and I’m not minimizing these serious emotions. It’s like when you’re worked up into a lather over something and someone rather gratuitously says, “Hey, just relax.” And how often do you then pause, drink in that sage advice, and emerge smiling from immediate relief? Never, because it’s stupid, completely unhelpful, advice.

Like Einstein said, “No problem can ever be solved by the same level of consciousness that created it.” You’ve got to change your state to make any kind of progress forward on a problem.

If you’ve read my blog or emails for long you know how much I love the relaxing from of guided meditation called Yoga Nidra. I Love Yoga Nidra because it brilliantly changes your state of consciousness by using relaxation and observation to arrive at your highest intelligence, or True Self. Your True self is like the adult part of you with the grand perspective that can simply observe without yielding to the 3-year-old part of you with all it’s of its emotions, reactions, and drama.

In fact, relaxation isn’t just merely the byproduct of Yoga Nidra. It’s the special sauce that performs the impossible. Not only can you learn to witness emotions rather than getting sucked in by them, but with Yoga Nidra you also learn that it’s the emotions themselves which are the catalyst that bring you to experience your True Self, that place of boundless equanimity, empowerment, and perspective. Through relaxation, Yoga Nidra changes your consciousness and illuminates your adult perspective which sees everything in your life for what it is: information.

Modern psychology supports this idea of relaxation being the game-changer for state change and stress reduction. Important discoveries during the last century have shown that a person cannot feel both stress and relaxation simultaneously. Therefore, in a state of deep relaxation like in Yoga Nidra, one might skillfully and gradually begin to introduce stressors like emotions into your awareness, but because you’re deeply relaxed, you’ll find that you can merely observe the emotions or stressors and see them as information. You counter-condition against stress and soon begin to identify as the all-seeing calm adult rather than the myopic tantrumy 3-year-old.

This is huge!

What’s more, simply observing an emotion without reacting to it can often break the insidious, downward-spiral that emotions can sometimes inflict on our psyche. In just a few minutes of a skillfully-guided Yoga Nidra practice, you may begin to experience your own “highest intelligence” and begin a new relationship with your emotions.

Simply put, when you practice Yoga Nidra, you put your inner 3-year-old to bed. Maybe that’s why everyone falls asleep during Yoga Nidra. Don’t worry, it still works even when you sleep, cuz the part of you that I’m speaking to is something beyond your rational mind and is always paying attention.

Click the button below to listen to this free Yoga Nidra practice I created called Awakening Through Body and Emotions. It’s designed to help you become very relaxed in your body before leading you through some fairly benign emotions to help you see past emotions and experience your True Self. It’s about 30 minutes long and I’d love to hear back from you about your experience. I also set this to some original chill music: me playing the clarinet with a drone in the background. I hope you like it.

Also, if this topic of using relaxation and observation to rejigger your relationship to emotions resonates with you, this is what my entire 6-week Yoga Nidra series will be about starting THIS Sunday at 9 am MST. This is a virtual Yoga Nidra series (live and online) where we will be exploring the theme, The Magic of Maya: Working Through Illusion, to learn to access the inner adult inside of you for your own change of consciousness and to experience your own boundless equanimity and learn to witness things like emotions. Please join me!

Each session will be recorded and transcribed so if the time doesn’t work for you, you can always catch the session at a time that works for you. Check out the details below

Online Yoga Nidra Teacher Training

By the end of this course you’ll be ready to teach Yoga Nidra!

6-Week Virtual Yoga Nidra Series

January 20–February 24